The Trick to Painting Laminate IKEA Furniture (and how NOT to do it)

Do you want to paint a piece of laminate IKEA furniture, but aren't sure how to do it so that you get beautiful results that actually last? I've got you covered! This guide will teach you everything you need to know to paint IKEA furniture (or any laminate furniture) and get a long-lasting finish.

Spoiler alert… There is a vital trick for successfully painting laminate IKEA furniture and it doesn't involve sanding! I figured out the key to making it perfect and you won't believe how easy it is.

There's so much to love about IKEA! The prices are awesome, especially when you are trying to decorate your home on a budget like me. I have used Ikea furniture all over my house–the desk in my office, our storage system for crafts, toy storage, and Avery's desk.

We have found that a lot of IKEA pieces are stylish and durable. But there is one problem–there are times when you want furniture that isn't white…or black-brown…or “walnut.”

There are tons of incredible IKEA hacks and IKEA bookcase hacks out there, but sometimes you just want a color change, not a full-blown project that requires power tools. Am I right?! So what's an IKEA lover to do? PAINT IT!

Can You Paint IKEA Furniture?

Yes! It should go without saying that you can paint IKEA wood furniture. (Pssst…if you are looking for tips on painting wood or other non-laminate furniture, check out my post about the best paint for every kind of furniture). But you can also paint IKEA laminate furniture and get gorgeous results that last!

What is Laminate Furniture?

Laminate furniture is generally particleboard that is then covered with a “design layer” (it may look like a solid paint color or could be a photographic image of wood). It is then laminated with a protective plastic covering.

How to Figure Out What Your IKEA Furniture is Made Of

If you aren't sure whether your IKEA furniture is laminate or not, head to the IKEA website and look up your product name. Then click on “Product Details” and then on “Materials.” If you see “particle board” + “acrylic paint” or “acrylic lacquer”, it means your furniture is laminate. If your piece is solid wood, you would see something like “solid pine” or “solid birch.”

Can You Paint IKEA Furniture Without Primer?

If you are painting a piece of laminate furniture, the answer is NO. You absolutely must use a shellac-based primer in order for your paint to adhere properly. Before we dive into the tutorial for painting Ikea furniture, let me show you something.

The Ikea Billy bookcase shelf on the left was painted without using BIN shellac based primer. See how the paint just beaded right up and didn't stick to the surface?

The shelf on the right has 1 coat of primer + 1 coat of paint. Yeah, the primer is VITAL. Even if you don't see your paint bead up right away, chances are that you will absolutely have peeling if you skip the shellac-based primer. Not fun.

image showing paint beading up on unprimed IKEA laminate furniture

Can I Paint IKEA Furniture Without Sanding?

As long as you use a shellac-based primer, you do not need to sand your laminate furniture before painting it!

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How to Paint IKEA Furniture

Materials needed

  • Zinsser B.I.N. Primer or any shellac-based primer. This is CRUCIAL. You cannot use a water-based or oil-based primer that you may be used to.
  • A high-quality paint, such as chalk paint or mineral paint (I used Amy Howard At Home One-Step Paint in Drama Queen for this project)
  • Paint brush
  • Foam roller
  • Drop cloths

Time needed: 6 hours

Here's everything you need to know about painting IKEA furniture that is laminate. The amount of time it take will depend on the size of your piece of furniture.

  1. Remove and hardware or knobs.

    You want to get everything out of your way before you begin priming and painting!

  2. Clean your piece of furniture.

    I like to clean my furniture pieces with Simple Green or Krud Cutter before painting them. After a good cleaning, wipe your piece down again with a damp cloth or sponge saturated with just water to remove any residual cleaning solution which can interfere with paint adhesion.

  3. Prime your piece with a shellac-based primer.

    Again, I used Zinsser B.I.N. Primer but any shellac-based primer should work! Allow it to dry completely. It dries pretty quickly!

    shellac-based primer for painting IKEA furniture

  4. Apply 2 coats of paint that is high-quality.

    I HIGHLY recommend using one of the paints I recommend for painting furniture. Quality matters! Latex paint is just not well-suited for painting furniture. One of the paints I love and use often is Amy Howard At Home One-Step Paint

    To get a smooth finish, I like to use a dense foam roller for the large, flat surfaces. I only use a brush for any details that I can't reach with the foam roller.

    painting IKEA laminate furniture

  5. Seal your piece (optional).

    If you use one of the high-quality furniture paints I recommend, you don't have to seal your piece. But if you want the additional protection or to add a bit of sheen, you can apply wax or a topcoat after your paint cures. I used Amy Howard At Home Light Antique Wax over my entire piece. If you prefer to use a topcoat, I would recommend something like Minwax Polycrylic. Just be sure that your topcoat is compatible with whatever paint you chose to use!

That's it! I've used this method to paint countless pieces of IKEA laminate furniture at this point, including this IKEA Lack Hack.

painted IKEA lack hack

It does take a bit of patience and prep work since you have to prime first, but it's well worth it to be able to paint IKEA laminate furniture any color you want!

Check out the finished project. We stacked two 41″ IKEA Billy bookcases on top of IKEA Aspelund chests of drawers to create tons and tons of storage in our daughter's room back when they were tiny. They are holding up fabulously and look great.

girls bedroom with pink painted IKEA bookcases
girl bedroom with pink painted ikea furniture

If you plan on painting IKEA furniture for yourself, be sure to save this post to Pinterest so you can refer back to it later!

Want more amazing IKEA tricks and hacks? Check out these posts:

Wondering how I approach transforming rooms and spaces in our home? Check out Designer in a Binder®.

designer in a binder--the affordable and simple way to decorate your home

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blog post signature with photo of Tasha Agruso of Kaleidoscope Living

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  1. Hi! Was there a reason you didnt paint the backboard of the shelf pink as well? Thanks in advance! And very cool DIY. <3

  2. Hello, can I use shellac on wood furniture that has heavy stain on it?

    Or a wood veneer over the regular wood?

    Or do I have to strip or sand it to paint it?

    Thank you!

  3. Hello Tasha. I recently bought 5 Ikea Billy white bookcases, wondered how to paint them and stumbled into your guide.


    I found this product, is this the primer you are talking about?

    Shellac Primer; [link blocked]

    One Step paint:[link blocked]

    1.- So the primer is white? How will I know I applied completely if the billy is white too?
    2.- How many of the 1 quart primers do you think I would need to coat my 5 billy bookcases?
    3.- How many of the one step paint do you think I would need to paint my 5 billy bookcases?

    4.- Just to be clear, the process would be, before assemblying painting with the primer once (or was it twice?) letting it dry 48 hours (Or less is fine?) and then giving it two coats of paint with the one step paint?

    Sorry if I am not clear since english is not my first language and thanks. Also I ask because I live overseas and if I had any extra paint it would be a paint to return it.

    1. Hi Ricardo. I cannot see the products you linked to, so I can’t answer those questions. The shellac based primer I used is not the exact same color as the billy bookcases so I was able to easily see where I had applied the primer. In terms of coverage, I really don’t know but you should be able to look at the manufacturer’s coverage guidelines to calculate it for the size and number of your bookcases. I believe I only used one coat of primer and applied 2 coats of the paint after the primer dried. The number of coats of paint required will depend on the color–some have better coverage than others. Good luck with your project!

  4. I’ve heard you should wait 48 hours between coats of the shellac primer before you paint. How long did you wait between coats?

    1. It’s been so long since we originally completed this project that I don’t remember. If I had to guess, I would say we let it dry overnight. But I don’t think we waited a full 48 hours. The exact product instructions may depend on the brand of the shellac-based primer you use since formulas can vary from brand to brand :) They can also change over time as formulas are updated.

  5. Question- did the paint scrape off when you slid the shelves back in? I’ve seen some people paint with the shelves in to avoid this. What was your experience?

    1. We didn’t have that issue. But if you did, touch-up should be easy! I feel like if you paint everything with the shelves in place you wouldn’t be able to adjust them in the future.

    1. Hi Natalie! Generally speaking, yes but it would depend somewhat on the paint you plan to use. If the paint you want to use on your cabinets beads up on the laminate, you definitely would want to use a shellac-based primer first :)

  6. Hello,
    Thanks for the post! It’s very helpful. The thing is I painted billy bookcase without a primer and it looks terrible right now. I am going to apply a primer but I have a question? Can I apply it on the painted parts too?

    1. I would apply it over the entire piece (including the painted parts), but only after you sand any areas where the paint has peeled or scraped off so that you don’t see that texture once you paint it again :)

  7. Hi Tasha,
    I live in germany (I’m from Toronto) and I used to be an avid furniture restorer but finding the products here that I need is near to impossible. Primer with shellac not likely but shellac yes so Im wondering if the laminated furniture could be primed with pure shellac then either primed with something else or just directly painted?

  8. Hi, thank you so much for this article. I would like to paint two white Hemnes nightstands. I would like to paint it brown to much another furniture we already have. What paint can you recommend me to use that is not chalk paint finish. Thank you so much

  9. Thanks for this. I read another article about painting the white Billy bookcase, where the paint would scratch with everyday use. Is this a problem you have experience? Would the ‘birch’ finish work better than the white?

    1. Hi Amanda! If you correctly prepare the piece and use the shellac-based primer before painting your IKEA laminate furniture, your paint should not scratch off with everyday use :) The color of the underlying laminate shouldn’t make any difference. I hope that helps!

  10. Hi. Love the article, thank you for posting. Extremely helpful for someone like me. I do have dumb question. If I want to paint my new IKEA furniture- Do I paint pieces before assembling ? Or after? What’s the best practice in your opinion?

    1. Hi Lillian! Not a dumb question at all. I would always paint as much as you can before assembling because it makes it SO much easier! You may have a little bit of touch up after you finish assembling, but I still think it’s the best way to go :) I hope that helps!